Los Angeles, CA–Saturday, November 18th, 2023, was a day that many college football fans had been eagerly awaiting. It was the day of the highly anticipated UCLA vs USC game, also known as the Battle for Los Angeles.
The two Los Angeles-based teams were set to face off at the iconic Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, and the excitement and anticipation leading up to the game was palpable. For years, UCLA and USC have been fierce rivals, each vying for the title of the best team in Los Angeles and the Pac–12 Conference.
This rivalry dates back all the way to 1929 when the two teams first met on the football field. And even after all these years, the rivalry between UCLA and USC remains one of the most intense and storied in all of college football.
As the game approached, both teams were coming off strong seasons, with both teams playing pretty well the last few weeks. It was clear that this game would not only determine the best team in Los Angeles but also have implications on their standings in the Pac–12.
The atmosphere inside the Coliseum was electric. Fans clad in blue and gold for UCLA and cardinal and gold for USC filled the stands, each cheering on their team with unwavering enthusiasm. The players could feel the energy and were eager to take the field and prove themselves in front of their home crowd.
From the very beginning, it was a back-and-forth battle between the two teams. UCLA‘s offense, led by star quarterback Etan Garbers, made big plays, while USC‘s defense fizzled out in the second half.
Running back T.J. Harden ran for a career-high 142 yards and scored two touchdowns, Ethan Garbers threw three TD passes and UCLA beat USC 38-20 on Saturday in the 93rd edition of their crosstown contest.
“I think anybody that’s been in this game knows it’s unique,” Kelly said. “I’ve been at other schools in other rivalry games, and it’s not like this. I think the proximity of the schools, playing for the Bell, there’s so much that goes into it. It’s cool to see the smiles on our kids’ faces when we get to bring the Bell back to our school.”
Caleb Williams passed for 384 yards with a touchdown and a pick on his 22nd birthday in the final game of a rough season for the Trojans (7-5, 5-4), who lost five of six games after being ranked No. 5 entering the year and starting out 6-0.
“Very, very disappointing,” Lincoln Riley said. “I mean, there’s no other way to put it. I told the guys in the locker room I’ve clearly not done a good enough job in the second half of the season getting this team ready to go. We just didn’t play good enough in any way.”
The Bruins hadn’t won back-to-back games at USC’s 101-year-old stadium since 1997, but UCLA never trailed in this game after whipping USC 62-33 two years ago.
“We didn’t finish well, there’s no other way to put it,” edge rusher Jamil Muhammad said of USC’s second-half nosedive. “We didn’t do enough things well to win. We’ll come back better, starting in the bowl game, and then next season it’ll be a nice turnaround for us.”
UCLA’s defense held the Trojans (7-5, 5-4) to just three yards rushing, the lowest total allowed by a Bruin team since a negative-13-yard game by Arizona in 2006. Laiatu Latu led the Bruins with seven tackles, including back-to-back sacks on Caleb Williams in the red zone in the third quarter.
The Trojans kept it close in the first half going into the break down by 4 (14-10) but in the second half, UCLA offense was clicking on cylinders and found gaping holes in USC’s defense.
USC had its best offensive moment in the second quarter when Williams capped a 99-yard drive with a dime to Brenden Rice, who raced 74 yards to paydirt.
UCLA: Host California on Nov. 25.
USC: A mid-tier bowl game and a search for a new defensive coordinator.